New Prague is looking for a modern post office

City leaders have spent the past two years trying to connect to the Postal Service to no avail

NEW PRAGUE, Minn. — City leaders in New Prague, in southern Minnesota, are growing increasingly frustrated with the state of their local post office, and even more upset that they can’t get a meeting with the USPS officials.

Mayor Duane Jirik told KARE he spent two years trying to get an answer on what steps the city could take to expedite the process of replacing the local post office.

“We tried to ask, hey, who can we talk to at the post office?” Mayor Jirik told KARE. “We just want to know the procedure. How can we try to get a new post office built in the community? And it kind of fell on deaf ears.”

He said the local post office had been in the same location on Main Street for a century and hadn’t kept up with the city’s growth or changes in street design that made it even less accessible to postal customers.

A MnDOT project has made this stretch of downtown New Prague more pedestrian-friendly, but at the same time it has removed parking spaces next to the post office. The mailbox that was near the front door has been moved 100 feet to the west and faces a parking spot often occupied by vehicles.

The post office serves the city’s 8,260 residents as well as many other residents of the rural areas that surround the community, which is located partly in Scott County and partly in Le Sueur County.

On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Angie Craig held a listening session with local elected officials and postal customers at a local bakery. The group then walked together down the street to the post office to show Craig how cramped the facility is inside.

“We asked the postal service if I could visit this post office and were refused, so today I walked in and saw for myself how small the lobby is, how small it would be difficult for a disabled person to access this place.”

She thanked the postal workers manning the counter, assuring them that she knew the problems with the building were not their fault.

“It’s certainly not their fault, but we need the USPS to get involved here, and that’s what I’m asking.”

Congress can’t control the Postal Service, but members can certainly lobby and highlight problems. Craig wrote to Tony Williams, the Minnesota/North Dakota District Director of the USPS, requesting that Williams meet with New Prague leaders.

In his letter, Craig noted that the New Prague Post Office operates in a rented building, one of 25,000 post offices in rented space.

“The lessor, American Postal Infrastructure, provides the address of its main executive office in Foster City, Calif.,” Rep. Craig told Williams.

“I fear that such a private equity firm on the other side of the country will focus more on its returns for investors than on serving the rural residents of New Prague who rely on an efficient post office, open and functional.”

In response to a request from KARE, USPS regional spokesperson Desai Abdul-Razzaaq wrote the following:

“Thank you for your interest in the United States Postal Service. The Postal Service will investigate any concerns raised by Rep. Craig and respond to him directly.”

Local residents began raising the issue with Craig in 2019 because the building was closed to customers, first for an asbestos removal project and another time for unspecified safety-related changes. The closest alternatives were 15 miles away or more.

“These people had to go to Belle Plaine, they had to go to Prior Lake for weeks in order to get to the nearest post office, so they feel like they’ve been ignored by the USPS” , Craig told KARE.

Mayor Jirik said there are many other suitable locations in the city for a modern post office building that would include parking for customers and employers and would be more accessible to people in wheelchairs or walkers.

So far, he hasn’t been able to get a signal from the USPS on what proactive steps the city can take to get the ball rolling.

Ben Bartusek, an older resident who uses a cane when walking, thanked Craig for bringing the issue to light and urging postal workers to come to the table.

Berta D. Wells